Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why Benedict Is Wrong to Censor His Cumberbitches

Victoria Sadler

His fans just can't get enough of him. Only this week, after generating near hysteria with his appearance at the Elementary Con in Birmingham, over 22,000 devoted fans clamoured for only 200 available tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch record the last episode of the popular BBC Radio 4 comedy Cabin Pressure.

And if that attention wasn't enough, a couple of days ago the actor was also reportedly chased down the streets of London by adoring (and a little misguided, it has to be said) fans after seeing a performance of the terrific Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse.

Still, the internet's favourite actor has been terribly gracious towards his fans, despite the fact that some of their behaviour must be unsettling at best and deeply worrying at worst (god help the poor woman who becomes his girlfriend). But one area that he has picked his devotees up on is their chosen name.

The Cumberbitches. That's what the most devoted fans called themselves. I actually liked it. I thought it was great word play, sharp, instantly recognisable and just a little bit in your face. And as soon as the term was coined, it went viral as quickly as 'credit crunch.'

It's a term that dwarfs all the other attempts (usually led by the stars themselves) to give fanbases catchy names, like Kylie's Lovers and Rihanna's Navy. Cumberbitches is right up there with Gaga's Monsters. The term is so good that the person behind it really should think about going into PR.

Only the actor himself was reluctant to be too supportive of the name. "It's not even politeness," he told Caitlin Moran in an interview for the Times. "I won't allow you to be my bitches. I think it sets feminism back so many notches. You are... Cumberpeople."

But Cumberpeople, and other alternatives generated by fans in the face of this censure such as Cumberfans, Cumberbabes, Cumbercollective... No, they're just not anywhere near as brilliant as Cumberbitches.

But more than this, why should the Cumberbitches redefine themselves because the object of their affection says so? And more importantly, why is it anti-feminist to call yourself a bitch?

Of course I'm in the realms of a circular argument here as if Mr Cumberbatch's remarkably fanatical following want to be his bitch then no doubt their willingness to do anything he says would extend to renaming themselves at his pleasure. But let's put that small technicality aside for one moment!


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